What You Need to Know about Financial Settlements

Whereas the divorce process is quite straightforward and you will find a procedural timetable on the website, the same can’t be said for financial proceedings. Even if you can agree on all money issues, you will need a family law specialist to draw that up into a document that is acceptable to the court as it must be in a particular form and language.

  • The court will not automatically list your divorce case for a hearing on financial matters. You will have to make a separate application for that and pay the court fee. The court usually lists your short initial hearing to take place in about three months from the date of your application.
  • It is essential to have a court order in respect of the settlement of your income and assets. Clients believe that because they have agreed something that that is enough but that is wrong. If you do not have your financial resolution drawn up in the proper form and approved by a judge, your spouse can come back and make a financial claim against you at any time in the future, no matter how each of your circumstances have changed. The only way to secure your finances for the future is to have your agreement dealt with formally at the time of your divorce or shortly afterwards.
  • The first thing to say about financial conflicts is that litigating about them is very expensive, so the more you can agree with your spouse, the more money you will keep for yourselves and the less money you will spend on your lawyers. We are frequently told by our clients that their spouse’s lawyers have insisted that communication should only go through solicitors. Unless we are talking about domestic abuse or violence, this is wrong and usually the lawyer in question wants to charge their client more by way of fees. We don’t hold with that at all here at Blanchards Law. We believe that you should keep the channels of communication open with your spouse as much as possible.
  • Before you talk about finances, sort out the children. If you are arguing about where the children will live, the court will deal with that first. The children need to be your primary consideration, but they should not be involved in your divorce settlement.
  • There are alternatives to court and you don’t have to see a judge if you’re not immediately capable of resolving your case. You should consider mediation or collaborative law, and we have both a mediation and collaborative law service here. Mediation is probably the cheapest way of achieving a financial settlement.
  • If you do end up going to court, you will spend a great deal on legal fees. A well-known family lawyer describes it as ‘losing a bedroom’ every time you have a court hearing. You have to consider whether whatever you are arguing about is worth that. It also lengthens the process quite considerably because you are no longer in charge, and you have to wait for the court to find time to slot your case in. In some busy courts, you are waiting for months and months and you feel you are effectively in limbo.
  • A lot of time and money is spent of preparing for court. For example, disclosure of your financial circumstances is by way of a 20-odd page form which has to be filed at court and served on your spouse, and there are many other court papers that have to be drafted and lodged at court. Clients do not realise that most of these are never read by the judge or anyone else, so it is a complete waste of time and money.
  • Most importantly, don’t lie to your spouse about your income or assets. If you do and they find out about it, you could jeopardise your entire financial agreement which not only can be renegotiated years later, but you will have to pay both your and your spouse’s legal costs for so doing.

©